So you’ve booked yourself a great vacation. Or maybe you’re going to spend time with family and friends from back home. Maybe you’ve become a globetrotting adventurer who likes to keep a home here in the U.S. No matter what, if you’re leaving your home for any significant period of time, then there are preparations you need to make.

Homes aren’t designed to go without home dwellers. The air conditioning, the plumbing, the appliances, the doors and windows, the yard, the entire house lives better when we live in them. Plus, the activity keeps any would-be crooks from helping themselves to your coveted belongings.


Avoid Unwanted Attention

Have you ever seen a pile of newspapers in someone’s driveway? It’s noticeable because it’s not like the rest. It catches your attention and it will certainly catch the attention of a burglar looking for an easy score. Here are six ways to keep your home looking lived-in.

  1. Stop the newspaper and mail. Have it forwarded if necessary but keep it from coming to your house.
  2. Keep traffic up at your house by asking the neighbors to park there once in awhile.
  3. Put a light or two on a timer to come on at night. A dark house in the night is a sure sign of a vacant house.
  4. Install motion activated flood lights. Motion activated flood lights stop anyone in their tracks. They’re bright and sudden. No one really likes them, especially criminals.
  5. Keep up the lawn service if you already have one. If you don’t, then get one or ask a kindly neighbor. Not only does an unkempt yard tick off the neighborhood, it tips off the crooks.
  6. Keep your car in the garage or have someone drive it occasionally. The point is to avoid dust, dirt and cobweb buildup. You don’t want your car to look undriven for weeks.
  7. Bonus tip: Give your contact info to a friend or neighbor. If something goes wrong, you want to know right away.


The Practical Prep

There are small tasks you take for granted when you come home each day. It’s easy to overlook some things when you leave that could cause you a lot of trouble upon your return. Here are five tips to take care of the easy stuff.

  1. Clean out your fridge. With all the hubbub and activity about leaving for vacation, it’s easy to forget that your fridge needs to be emptied of all perishable foods. Give your fridge a thorough clean, to include wiping down the shelves. Mold isn’t a good welcome home gift.
  2. Get all that laundry done. Not only will you need a lot of it, but the last thing you want to come home to is a bunch of laundry to clean. Clean laundry sets you up to get back to work and to your routine quickly and stress free.
  3. Plants and pets. If you have plants, get a trusted friend to water them for you on a regular schedule. If your pet is staying home, that same friend can feed and/or walk your pets. Be prepared to give that trusted friend an incentive of some sort — perhaps a gift from your travels.
  4. Clean the kitchen. Much like the fridge, the kitchen can grow unwanted company. Clean the kitchen, dishes, wipe it all down and take out the trash. Not only will it keep unwanted friends from growing a family, but it will make your return feel that much better.
  5. Secure doors and windows. It seems obvious, but it’s super important. Check all the doors and windows to make sure they are locked. Especially check those rarely used windows and doors. If you have a pet door, lock that too.


Electrical and Plumbing Prep

Your house is a complicated machine. Electrical and plumbing run throughout. When it’s not used, problems can bubble up. Every home is different, but below are the five essential preparations before you leave on vacation.

  1. Unplug. Small appliances not only drain electric, but they can be a fire hazard too. Unplug all of your small appliances. If it’s not essential, unplug it.
  2. Turn off your water heater. Most water heaters will have a vacation mode to keep the energy use to a bare minimum, but you can choose to turn it off or leave it on vacation mode.
  3. Turn off water valves. Returning to a lakeview homefront isn’t in the plans, so make sure you turn off those water valves. The dishwasher, washing machine and all sinks have a water valve. Turn them off. Plus, you can turn off the water to your toilets too.
  4. Toilet and pipe care. Toilets can get nasty without use or cleaning. You could empty them, but that presents new problems. The best thing to do is have a friend come by the house every few weeks to flush toilets and drop a bit of bleach in the bowl. This same friend can also turn on the water to run the sinks a bit to keep gas from coming back up into your house.
  5. Set the thermostat. You want the air conditioning to run every so often but you don’t want to run up a full blown electric bill. Set the thermostat so that it closely matches the outside temp but also keeps things from getting too hot or cold. You want your pets, plants, electronics and furniture to survive your vacation.

Take the time to consider everything in your home. You may have a pool, complex alarm system or other specialized equipment. When in doubt, call the manufacturer for guidance. The 17 items above will cover all the most common bases and will set most homes up for success.

If you have any lessons learned from past experiences or if you have recommendations for home preparation, leave a comment and let us in on the details. It could help someone save a bunch of time, money and heartache.

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